From working as a nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and in the state correctional system, to helping address shortages of protective equipment, Emily Moldoff is making a difference in the coronavirus response in many ways.
A Jamaica Plain resident who is from Salem, N.H., Moldoff works full time at the Brigham in the eye, nose, and throat department. With COVID-19, many visits have transitioned to teleconference or videoconference, which Moldoff has been doing by day. At night, she and other staff fill in as needed through an option called “donning and dossing,” in which they serve as runners for colleagues working on floors with COVID-19 patients.
Moldoff is one of many Greater Boston Jews who have stepped up to help those battling during the coronavirus pandemic. She grew up going to Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill and was a Bat Mitzvah there. Now she is active in Young Jewish Professionals and Boston Chabad events since moving to Boston. She said Chabad Boston has recently been sponsoring “Shabbat boxes,” which provide everything needed to have a small Shabbat service during this quarantine period.
“It is very helpful and reassuring to return to your faith in times like these,” she said. “There is a sense of Jewish community in Boston which is evolving every day during this difficult time.”
On the job, Moldoff is cautious but determined. “It’s scary being a health care provider in these times,” Moldoff said. “We want to help. My first inclination is to pick up every shift I can. Sometimes you have to take a step back and make sure you’ll be safe yourself.”
On weekends, she works with coronavirus patients at state prisons in the Boston and Metrowest areas. “You know you’re dealing with patients who are very sick, very ill, have this contagious disease,” she said. “It’s like working in any health system.”
She said staff is taking every precaution: “They’re doing a really good job isolating patients who contracted COVID-19 and treating these patients.”
Moldoff has taken personal steps to help close the personal protective equipment – or PPE – gap for medical professionals. Early in the COVID-19 crisis, when her colleagues at the Brigham were concerned about a possible shortage of face masks, she was among a group of nurses who purchased them from stores such as Home Depot.
She found another option in The Pussums Cat Co., a cat supply company in Turner, Maine, where she has purchased toys for her cat, Ollie. Pussums has refocused its energies into making fabric masks, and Moldoff asked if the company could donate some to the Brigham; it provided 100. Meanwhile, she uses her sewing machine to make her own masks out of fabric.
Eugene Rothman has helped respond to natural disasters on the federal level across the country, and epidemics on the citywide level in New York. Shortly before his retirement as a paramedic with the Natick Fire Department, Rothman was called into duty for a new kind of challenge: COVID-19.
Rothman and colleagues from the National Disaster Medical System were deployed to Georgia in early March to care for passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship. After it docked off Oakland, Calif., early in the pandemic, more than 3,000 passengers were taken off the ship and placed into federal quarantine in locations across the U.S. Rothman helped care for passengers at the Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, near Atlanta.
Nineteen crew members on the ship tested positive for COVID-19 and three people died, including two passengers.
Rothman and his colleagues helped supply the former ship passengers with necessities like toilet paper, and brought them to a hospital when they needed to go to one. He said that most did not have COVID-19 symptoms, although some tested positive over the course of his deployment.
With the original two-week deployment drawing near, the team members were asked to stay on for a third week.
“My first thought was that I was not going to stay,” Rothman recalled. “I really did not want to deploy into April.” He was set to retire from the Natick Fire Department on April 30 after 21 years. But, he recalled, “When my administrative officer asked, ‘You think you’re going to stay?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’ll stay.’ … I have to help everyone on the team.”
In his time with the federal team, Rothman, has responded to natural disasters such as Hurricanes Andrew in 1991 and Katrina in 2005. He even traveled abroad during the response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Some of his colleagues did not stop working after their deployment ended, but relocated to the Southwest to help with the COVID-19 response at the Navajo Nation reservation, which has been hard hit by the pandemic.
In Rothman’s last few weeks as a paramedic in Natick before his retirement, he described experiencing new protocols implemented by the state. If paramedics are called to treat a case of cardiac arrest, in the past they would take an unresponsive individual to a hospital after trying all standard treatments over 20 to 30 minutes. Now, that’s not the case, out of concerns over limited hospital resources and the potential of COVID-19 infection. Rothman said that he had experienced this protocol before, while dealing with the AIDS epidemic in New York City.
He said that ambulances are regularly wiped down, and that the town of Natick provided extra money for washing machines for firefighters’ uniforms so they do not have to wash them at home.
Rothman has continued teaching an online class on medical aspects of disaster management at Jacksonville State University in Florida. “I said, ‘You folks are in the process of living this course. Pay attention to the news, read as much as you can.’”